Tai retains All England title to deny Yamaguchi her first

World No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying on her way to beating Akane Yamaguchi, the World Super Series title holder, 22-20, 21-13 in yesterday's All England final.
World No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying on her way to beating Akane Yamaguchi, the World Super Series title holder, 22-20, 21-13 in yesterday's All England final.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • It was a battle of the top two shuttlers in the women's singles, and world No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei showed that she had what it took to be crowned the All England Open champion again in Birmingham yesterday.

The 23-year-old retained her crown after defeating second-ranked Akane Yamaguchi, who is also the World Super Series title holder, 22-20, 21-13.

Tai said on court: "There is not much pressure for me because I enjoy playing here and I'm happy to win again."

With her victory, she also denied Japan's Yamaguchi the chance to be the first All England women's singles winner from her nation since Hiroe Yuki in 1977.

Yamaguchi, 20, stunned India's superstar and Olympic silver medallist P.V. Sindhu in the semi-finals in a thrilling 19-21, 21-19, 21-18 encounter, while Tai defeated China's Chen Yufei 21-15, 20-22, 21-13.

Tai admitted that she was concerned that fatigue would take a toll on her performance in the final.

"I think we are both very tired from the matches played yesterday," she said. "I was a bit worried before I came onto the court because I know she can run very fast.

"And I want to thank all my fans here, they are amazing today.

"It's because of the tremendous support I get, I can always be happy whenever I'm playing."

Before yesterday's final, Yamaguchi praised Tai and said that she is a well-rounded player.

"Tai Tzu-ying has everything. She is very good at attacking and defending as well as having great stamina. It is going to be a very hard match but I am ready to give all I have and enjoy the match," the Japanese said.

She may not have enjoyed her defeat, but she did not disappoint after going neck and neck with her opponent in the first game. Tai's superiority, however, prevailed in the final that lasted 44 minutes.

In the men's singles final, Shi Yuqi denied his Chinese compatriot Lin Dan a seventh title with a 21-19, 16-21, 21-9 victory.

Earlier in the mixed doubles final, Japan's Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino clinched their first title after beating China's Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong.

The Chinese pair took the first set 21-15 and looked likely to win the second set as well.

But the Japanese partnership edged them out 22-20 before sealing a famous victory at 21-16 in the decider.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2018, with the headline 'Tai retains All England title to deny Yamaguchi her first'. Print Edition | Subscribe